I learned about Marcos in school.
Maybe it was Grade 3 or Grade 4, but I first heard his name in school. The teachers taught me he established martial law, angered a lot of Filipinos, and was ousted in a big revolution. It was nothing to me yet.
But I would learn about Marcos again in school.
In Philippine Science High School (Pisay), they showed us photos of Marcos and EDSA. Marcos and his medals. Imelda’s shoes and jewellery. The hundreds of thousands of people who finally said “NO”. The nuns facing the armed soldiers. Ninoy Aquino – my first personal hero – and his blooded body on the tarmac.
In Pisay, they taught me to learn the truth. We all knew the stories of our own teacher who was tortured and raped during martial law.
On an EDSA anniversary day, I was assigned to interview a female detainee of the Marcos era… And I had to hold back my tears and my shame when this 50-year old lady described to me – graphically – how she had a penis in her vagina, a penis in her mouth, and some thrust on her hands by the soldiers who arrested her.
And then I went to the University of the Philippines (UP).
There I learned how many students just like me – who expressed their disgust, assembled to oppose the dictatorship – disappeared during that era. Their unfound ghosts still haunt our walls.
In fact, the aftertaste of the torture, killings, and corruption – corruption as vile as the worst characters of Noli Me Tangere – under Marcos continues to fuel the anger of every UP protestor’s megaphone call.
Today, 20 years of my life learning history come undone.
The government is now telling me Marcos is a hero. The same government that created the institutions that taught me that Marcos was a dictator, a tyrant, a thief is now telling me the opposite.
History. History is written; not recorded. And today, the government is rewriting it.
I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. And the lump in my throat is forcing me to write something… do something…
Let him be buried. Because, with him, I’ll bury my sadness and my anger and my frustrations. And I’ll choose to feel the one thing I know can spur action: courage.
I’ll be brave enough to believe that Marcos is not a hero, even when fellow Filipinos and the government beg to differ. I’ll be brave enough to cling to my values, even when I feel that this country is burying its integrity along with his corpse. I’ll be brave enough not to feel hatred or anger, even when it’s hard to truly try to understand the views of people who think differently.
Most of all, I’ll be brave enough to keep fighting. I can’t let today define my country. There is work to be done… through education, through peace, through justice…
We know what a real hero is like. Let’s try to be one.
(Originally Written: November 2016)